In college football, unlike most other sports across the nation, the weekly rankings matter a great deal. There is no NCAA Tournament (though thankfully we are moving to a four-team playoff soon) that allows the players to decide it all on the field, meaning a margin of one or two spots in a poll can be the deciding factor as to whether your team gets to play in a BCS bowl game. And so, fans, analysts, coaches and writers are constantly trying to determine which teams are overrated, and which teams are underrated. A great deal of the time, the pollsters are right on the money.
But not always. The most troubling fact of all? It's often the same schools which are overestimated.
Proving that a program is overrated is rather difficult, as teams are ranked in different spots throughout each season, and it's been 15 years since the BCS was adapted for college football's postseason. Any one team can be overrated at any given time. But to say a program itself is overrated, you need to back it up with facts that show a pattern.
We ran through the AP Polls (we realize the BCS uses the Coaches Poll, this was done on purpose) since 1998 and came up with a system to determine which programs were consistently overrated between the Preseason Poll and the Final Poll after the bowl games.
The scoring is rather simple. If your school started the season ranked No. 1 and finished No. 14, it would lose 13 points. Since only 25 teams are ranked at any given time, all teams unranked were assumed as No. 26. So, if a given squad started the season ranked No. 3 and finished out of the poll, it would lose 23 points. The points for each school were added up and divided by 15 to obtain an average +/- per season. Would it be better if every team was ranked throughout the season and we had a cleaner set of numbers? Of course. But when you're just looking for the top 12 most overrated programs in the BCS era, this method does the job.
WIthout further ado, here are the top 12 most overrated college football programs of the BCS era. The school ranked No. 1 won the distinction in a landslide.
12. Miami (FL): -1.93 spots per season
The biggest offense: 2006, opened at No. 12, finished out of the poll
Miami's plight over the past half decade has been well-documented. And while the Hurricanes had a great deal of success early in the BCS era, it was all expected. They were highly ranked in the preseason polls in the late 1990s and early 2000s and they backed it up. But remember, that just means they weren't overrated or underrated. Since 2005, they've been ranked in the top 10 of the Preseason AP Poll three times. They did not stay there until the end in any of those seasons.
11. USC: -2.13 spots per season
The biggest offense: 2012, opened at No. 1, finished out of the poll
The 2012 season is a big reason that the Trojans are on this list, but it's not the only issue. Subpar campaigns in 2009 and 2010 were also major factors. USC enjoyed a great run in the mid-2000s, but just as was the case with Miami, it was mostly expected. The Trojans have dropped at least seven spots in the AP Poll five times in 15 years. They're almost always highly ranked, but they don't always live up to the hype.
10. LSU: -2.26 spots per season
The biggest offense: 2008, opened at No. 7, finished out of the poll
Surprised to see an SEC team on the list? Don't be, there are more coming. While LSU is definitely considered one of the strongest programs in the country, it's also had its share of mishaps along the way. In five out of the 15 BCS seasons, the Bayou Bengals have dropped at least eleven spots in the rankings between preseason and postseason. Of course, when you reach the BCS title game multiple times in that same span, people don't seem to notice.
9. Cal: -2.33 spots per season
The biggest offense: 2009, opened at No. 12, finished out of the poll
Cal? Yep. The Golden Bears have only been ranked in the Preseason AP Poll five times in the BCS era, and as you can probably guess, they didn't really live up to the billing. In fact, in only one of those seasons did they actually improve their ranking by the end of the year. While most of the other schools on this list have some positive numbers to offset the negative, the Bears, for lack of a better phrase, just don't.
8. Texas: -2.53 spots per season
The biggest offense: 2010, opened at No. 5, finished out of the poll
Texas' 2010 season is the major reason the Longhorns are on here. How can one season drag them down so much? It's simple. UT has been ranked in the preseason top ten nine times in 15 years, and it was No. 11 twice. The Longhorns haven't had many opportunities prove themselves as underrated because they're always ranked so damn high. Only one time in the past seven years have they improved their preseason ranking.
7. West Virginia: -2.66 spots per season
The biggest offense: 2004, opened at No. 10, finished out of the poll
You thought the Mountaineers were a dark horse contender each year, right? Nope. Four times (1998, 2004, 2008, 2012) in the BCS era, they've dropped at least 15 spots in the rankings by the end of the season. If it wasn't for the 2005 season, in which the Mountaineers went from unranked to No. 5, they'd have been No. 3 overall on this list.
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6. Michigan: -3.53 spots per season
The biggest offense: 2005, opened at No. 4, finished out of the poll
Ohio State fans will love this - the Wolverines check in at No. 6 on our list. Between the 2005, 2007 and 2012 seasons, Michigan dropped a total of 51 spots in the rankings. Other than a surprise 2011 season in which the Wolverines climbed from unranked to No. 9, there haven't been many instances in which they've actually moved up the polls. In eight of the 12 seasons that Michigan was ranked to the start the season, it was either unranked or lost ground by the end of the year.
5. Oklahoma: -3.73 spots per season
The biggest offense: 2009, opened at No. 3, finished out of the poll
Sleep well, Texas fans - Oklahoma has actually been slightly more overrated than your Longhorns. In fact, most of their downfall has been in the past eight years. Since 2005, the Sooners have dropped at least eleven spots in the poll four times - once even going from No. 3 to unranked. Why? Oklahoma has been cast in the preseason top ten for 12 straight years - an absurd number. The only reason they aren't No. 1 on our list is because more than half the time, they prove the voters correct. The lone year that they actually won the national title? 2000, when they were ranked No. 19 in the preseason. How ironic.
4. Florida: -3.86 spots per season
The biggest offense: 2010, opened at No. 4, finished out of the poll
How could a school which has won two national championships in the BCS era also be on the most overrated list? Well for starters, in three separate seasons, the Gators dropped at least 15 spots in the rankings by year's end. In eleven of the 15 years, Florida has finished with a lower ranking than it had going into the season. That doesn't mean the Gators have played some terrible football, it just means that the voters rank them highly nearly every season, and it's been impossible for them to produce every year. The one year that bucks the trend? 2012, when the Gators went from No. 23 to No. 9.
3. Tennessee: -4.06 spots per season
The biggest offense: 2005, opened at No. 3, finished out of the poll
The Vols haven't been listed in the Preseason AP Poll in the past four years, but enough damage was done in the first 11. Tennessee won the first BCS National Championship in 1998, climbing from No. 10 to No. 1. In seven of the next ten years, the Vols finished with a worse ranking than they started with, including two seasons (2002 & 2005) in which they went from the top five to unranked. Tennessee's inability to live up to its high rankings in the early and mid-2000s definitely contributed to its downfall in the SEC.
2. Nebraska: -4.4 spots per season
The biggest offense: 2002, opened at No. 10, finished out of the poll
Nebraska has produced four seasons in which it dropped at least ten spots in the poll. The Cornhuskers have also finished with a worse ranking than they started with in nine out of the 13 seasons they've appeared in the Preseason AP Poll. It's not that the football program isn't producing a winner each year, it's that the voters are consistently ranking them five to ten spots too high. When you average that in with the few seasons they've actually moved up the rankings, you get an average of -4.4 spots per season. Bottom line? They're overrated very, very often.
1. Florida State: -6 spots per season
The biggest offense: 2002, opened at No. 3, finished at No. 21
Sorry Seminoles fans, but Florida State is the definition of overrated. FSU has been listed in almost every Preseason AP Poll since 1998, but it's only moved up the rankings three times by season's end. Three years, it's dropped 15 spots or more. Five more years, it's dropped between seven and ten spots. Seminoles fans probably feel like their team is always ranked in the top ten before the season, but finishes somewhere between 15 and 25 - that's because that's exactly what happens. Dropping an average of six spots over a 15 year span is a very large number. Why are they always ranked so high? I don't know. But if there's anything in this world you can bet on, it's that they won't live up to the hype.
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